Watch Walter Murch telling a story about Sound and it’s Poetry

A short film by Locarno Film Festival celebrates the work of  legendary Walter Murch, who received this year the Vision Award – Nescens for his amazing career as a Sound Communicator.

Placed in an environment alluding to the Harry Caul’s tapes warehouse from the movie The Conversation, Murch is set in front of a Revox and with silence all around. Then he starts telling a story about Sound, talking about his life, the sonic relationship between a child and a mother, the work of sound editor Frank E. Warner and more.

This short film is like a small poem to Sound. Watch the video and read the full script below, by the own evocative words of Walter.

“My own life.

We are born in a very loud environment, which is the womb.

So the sound of my life is the sound of my mother’s womb. Her heartbeat and her breathing and her intestines, gargling.

So right from the beginning we have the timpani of her heart and the strings of her breath, and the trumpets of her intestines. And then her voice, the singing. So there’s where music comes from.

The amazing thing is the loudness of that sound, which is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 75 decibels, which is as loud as you’re driving in a car and a hundred kilometres per hour with the windows down. And that’s what the baby hears from four and a half months after conception until its born.

But then the moment it’s born, he hears something that he never heard before, which is silence, because it’s never been quiet in the womb. It’s like being in a factory. And suddenly when you’re born, not only yu start seeing things and smelling things, which you have never done before, but you hear nothing.

Silence.

For every child, me, you, must be a startling and frightening experience, because if your mother dies, all those sounds would stop. Silence has this mortality associated with.

This room reminds me the Harry Caul’s warehouse, where he did all of this tape editing, and has a nice reverberation, and we were just upstairs in the balcony, looking over Piazza Grande, which is like Union Square in San Francisco. And now we are in the Harry Caul’s warehouse, editing what we recorded. And what I was doing with my hands what was the great sound editor Frank Warner did.

He did the sound of Raging Bull and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and he had a very large tape library of sounds. And when he was getting ready to do a film, he would pick reels of sound at random, like this, and put them on this Revox, and he would play just as I was doing. Fast forward, the stop. And then he was using his hands and go wowoo wowoo weee wee. And when the film was done, he destroyed everything, so that nobody else, including himself, would never use those sounds again. So that this would be your unique signature sound, for the film he was working on.

The temptation, of course, was to save these sounds, the flash bulbs, because they sound great and to use them into another film. But this is like a cooked serving up the same dish twice in a row to the same client at the restaurant.

You always want to be unique.”

Need to say more?

Gianpaolo D'Amico

Editor-in-chief at sounDesign
Gianpaolo D'Amico is an independent creative technologist for digital media. He is the founder of sounDesign and a music obsessed since he was 0 years old.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Fascinating tidbit for fans of The Conversation…
    The idea that Harry Caul spends most of the movie mis-hearing the Fred Forrest character was not in the script. It was a Murch epiphany in post production, and he made it the centerpiece of the story.

    Walter is a genius, and Coppola is one as well in my opinion. Every piece of work that a genius does is not going to be a work of genius, but The Conversation, The Godfather 1 & 2, and Apocalypse Now constitute an amazing achievement over an 8 or 9 year period.

  2. Hi Randy, it’s a great honour for us to have a comment of yours here. Thank you very much for your contribution to this great story of movies, sounds and Walter Murch.
    Surely The Conversation is a move we have to rediscover again after this relevations.
    If you have more “sound” stories we are available to make a chat with you, thanks!!!

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